STUDY: How Big Tech Tried to Kill the Hunter Biden Story

April 20th, 2022 7:38 AM

Twitter and Facebook worked in lockstep to restrict the flow of the Hunter Biden laptop story just before the 2020 presidential election. These platforms stifled the spread of that story at the same time that Big Media did, as MRC research found.

Facebook’s suppression broke the platform’s own fact-checking policy, and Twitter’s attempt to cancel the story so outrageously violated content moderation norms that it drew criticism from the likes of leftist Poynter Institute fact-checkers. Even then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey criticized his platform after the fact.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone announced the platform had preempted third-party fact-checks on the Hunter Biden story the day it broke on Oct. 14, 2020, and limited its spread moving forward. Stone has a long history working directly for Democrats, and Facebook’s hair-trigger, broad-brush blackout blatantly broke the platform’s content moderation policy.

Under Facebook’s third-party fact-checker policy, the fact-checkers decide what content gets restricted. Facebook’s fact-checking partners, which are certified by the liberal Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), are supposed to flag Facebook posts found to be  “False,” “Altered,” “Missing Context,” or “Partly False.”

Twitter responded to the New York Post’s bombshell Hunter Biden report by disabling the link to the story on the day it was released, and claimed: “Warning: this link may be unsafe.” Twitter then restricted the Post account from Oct. 14 to Oct. 30.

Twitter’s action eventually prompted an admission of error by Dorsey during Senate questioning on Oct. 28, 2020. Twitter’s and Facebook’s joint suppression drew criticism from the brass of the fact-checking network that oversees Facebook’s fact-checking partners.

IFCN Associate Director Cristina Tardáguila wrote for the Poynter Institute, “Less than a month from Election Day, both companies finally became arbiters of the truth on the internet. Naive are those who believe this isn’t dangerous.”

Twitter limited the sharing of the Hunter laptop story and restricted the Post’s account for more than two weeks. The platform also muzzled several political influencers who tried to share the story.

Those targets included then-White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, then-OANN reporter Jack Posobiec, the Trump Campaign, actor James Woods, conservative radio and TV host Dana Loesch, NewsBusters Managing Editor Curtis Houck for 12 hours and even the House Judiciary Committee.

Facebook “fact-checker” Lead Stories released at least 15 so-called “fact-checks” in direct support of Joe and Hunter Biden in the two weeks before the Nov. 3, 2020, Election Day. Those “fact-checks” sought to rebut claims of Hunter’s alleged drug use and alleged sexual misconduct, along with assertions that corporate media didn’t give the Hunter Biden story enough coverage.

The following is a more detailed timeline of how social media platforms suppressed the Hunter Biden story from Oct. 14, 2020, to today:

Oct. 14, 2020, 11:10 a.m.: Facebook communications executive Andy Stone, a former career Democrat, notes that his company is “reducing” distribution of the Hunter Biden story.

Oct. 14, 2020, 1 p.m.: Stone qualifies the censorship, stating: “This is part of our standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation." It isn’t, actually.

Oct. 14, 2020, 3:22 p.m.: Twitter freezes the New York Post’s primary account, claiming the Hunter Biden story violates the platform’s rules against “distribution of hacked material.”

Oct. 14, 2020, 6:43 p.m.: Twitter locks the personal account of White House Press Secretary Kaleigh McEnany, apparently for sharing the Hunter Biden story.

Oct. 14-Nov. 3, 2020: Facebook fact-checking partner Lead Stories posts over a dozen “fact-checks” seeking to rebut claims such as Hunter’s alleged drug use and alleged sexual misconduct.

Oct. 15, 2020: Facebook fact-checking partner claims the Hunter Biden laptop/Ukraine business dealings story is “false” and widely debunked. Neither is true.

Oct. 16, 2020, 6:30 p.m.: Twitter lifts its ban on the Hunter Biden story. The New York Times sensationally reports congressional Republicans pressured the platform to do so.

Oct. 19, 2020: Fifty-one former U.S. intelligence officials write a letter deriding the veracity of the New York Post report, claiming the story has “earmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.”

Oct. 20-Nov. 3, 2020: Facebook fact-checking partner PolitiFact runs several favorable Hunter Biden-related fact-checks in the run-up to the election, and at least three related to his laptop. 

Oct. 28, 2020: A Snopes fact-check repeats 51 intelligence officials’ claims that the Hunter Biden laptop story is “Russian disinformation.”

Oct. 28, 2020: Big Tech CEOs appear at a congressional hearing. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claims his company made a mistake in quickly suppressing the Hunter Biden story. 

Oct. 29, 2020: PolitiFact fact-check dismisses claims by Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski that Joe Biden was involved in family ventures with a Chinese oil company. 

Oct. 30, 2020: Twitter removes its freeze on the New York Post’s account just a few days before Election Day.

Nov. 17, 2020: Big Tech CEOs go back to the Senate for another round of questioning. Much of the hearing focuses on Big Tech’s censorship of the Hunter Biden story. 

April 6, 2021: A Snopes fact-check wrongly tags a social media post quoting Hunter Biden saying the laptop mentioned by the New York Post “could be” his as “misleading.”

July 7, 2021: Former President Donald Trump sues Twitter and Facebook for “censorship of the American people.”

Sept. 13, 2021: The Federal Election Commission determines Twitter’s actions to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story were  “valid,” and not for a political purpose.

March 17, 2022: Snopes updates an Oct. 15, 2020, fact-check that uprooted the New York Post story to note that The New York Times authenticated the emails housed on Hunter Biden’s laptop. 

Conclusion: It all worked. Research conducted by The Polling Company for the Media Research Center after the 2020 election found that the media’s censorship of Biden scandals had a significant impact on the election. The survey found that 45.1% of Biden voters in seven key swing states said they were unaware of the financial scandal enveloping Biden and his son, Hunter. According to our poll, full awareness of the Hunter Biden scandal would have led 9.4% of Biden voters to abandon the Democratic candidate, flipping all six of the swing states he won to Trump, which would have given the former president 311 electoral votes.

It should be noted this study is looking at revelations that primarily stemmed from the laptop discovery. Stories on the investigation into Hunter’s tax affairs that pre-date the laptop story or later Hunter scandals like his art gallery deal were not included in this study sample.